Today is the suisse day for Refugee, and as I heard about it, I was motivated to tell you my story. A long story around this status called “refugee”. I remember very well the date of my departure on February 25, 2013.
In Syrien, I lived in a neighborhood populated by various sects like Alevi -the majority-, Christian, and Sunni. With the beginning of the People’s Revolution in 2012 I was just seventeen and everything became different as I decided to join the popular movement. Before that time, everybody was nice, then everything looked different.
Most of the neighbors did not like people that joint the revolution. They started accusing me and my family only because I did not accept the dictatorship of the ruling President Assad and his regime. As I heard the first shot in our neighborhood I really worried about what was going to happen to us. Hurriedly I packed a little bag and put in it my most loved things, a few pictures, my colorful bed sheet, my sketchbook and a lot of colors. Every day I used to say to myself when things get bad, I’ll take my bag and run away with my family.
When my house was raided in Homs, Syria in 2013, my father was arrested from his workplace, and we received a call from his friend telling us that we had to leave the house as soon as possible and he turned off his phone. A few minutes later, the armed forces raided our house, the so-called “Shabiha”. They were looking for weapons and war tools, thinking that we have a lot, but they did not find anything. We only have our voices.
They threatened that if we didn’t leave the house immediately they would kill us all. I laughed inside myself looking at my bag. After they searched it thoroughly and threw what was inside it on the ground. But it was ready. I could not pack all my things again. I took a few and my family and I ran away at three in the morning.
Illustration by Noor Alshahhal
„I had to leave my new home again. This time without my bag of memories and a colorful bed sheet. Without any prior warning. I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to my family. I haven’t kissed my mother, my father, my brothers, my sister.“
We went to Lebanon because it is a country very close to my city and we could stay there for a while thinking, soon we can come back again, I spent 10 years in Lebanon and got a new title for myself: “I am Nour, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon”.
In Libanon, I applied to study mass communication. After I experienced the oppression of free speech in Syrien, I wanted to learn how I can write about myself, my story, and the people in Syria. Besides I volunteered at a local organization that supports refugees. My role changed from help seeker to help giver.
I had a special education at the American University of Beirut and I designed projects where women, youth, and children could have a safe place. I worked as a researcher on refugee issues and my main focus was on the human and political rights of every human being, that people can be safe and use their voices freely.
The regime in Lebanon, which is an ally of the Assad regime in Syria arrested me several times. I had to leave my new home again. This time without my bag of memories and a colorful bed sheet. Without any prior warning. I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to my family. I haven’t kissed my mother, my father, my brothers, my sister.
Today I am completing my first year in Switzerland to obtain a new year of asylum. That completes eleven years of “refugee” status. Eleven years of asylum and a new title: “Syrian refugee in Switzerland”.